Born: October 19, 1910
Died: August 21, 1995
Achievements: Discovery of Chandrasekhar Limit; awarded Nobel
Prize in Physics in 1983.
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was one of the greatest scientists of the
20th century. He did commendable work in astrophysics, physics and
applied mathematics. Chandrasekhar was awarded the Nobel Prize in
Physics in 1983.
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was born on October 19, 1910 in Lahore. His
father, Chandrasekhara Subrahmanya Ayyar was an officer in Government
Service in the Indian Audits and Accounts Department. His mother Sita
was a woman of high intellectual attainments. C.V. Raman, the first
Indian to get Nobel Prize in science was the younger brother of
Chandrasekhar's father. Till the age of 12, Subramanyan Chandrasekhar
had his education at home under his parents and private tutors. In 1922,
at the age of 12, he attended the Hindu High School. He joined the
Madras Presidency College in 1925. Subrahmanyan Chandrashekhar passed
his Bachelor's degree, B.Sc. (Hon.), in physics in June 1930. In July
1930, he was awarded a Government of India scholarship for graduate
studies in Cambridge, England.
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar completed his Ph.D. degree at Cambridge in the summer of
1933. In October 1933, Chandrasekhar was elected to a Prize Fellowship
at Trinity College for the period 1933-37. In 1936, while on a short
visit to Harvard University, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, was offered a
position as a Research Associate at the University of Chicago and
remained there ever since. In September 1936, Subrahmanyan Chandra
Shekhar married Lomita Doraiswamy. She was her junior at the Presidency
College in Madras.
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar is best known for his discovery of
Chandrasekhar Limit. He showed that there is a maximum mass which can be
supported against gravity by pressure made up of electrons and atomic
nuclei. The value of this limit is about 1.44 times a solar mass. The
Chandrasekhar Limit plays a crucial role in understanding the stellar
evolution. If the mass of a star exceeded this limit, the star would not
become a white dwarf. It would continue to collapse under the extreme
pressure of gravitational forces. The formulation of the Chandrasekhar
Limit led to the discovery of neutron stars and black holes. Depending
on the mass there are three possible final stages of a star - white
dwarf, neutron star and black hole.
Apart from discovery of Chandrasekhar Limit, major work done by
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar includes: theory of Brownian motion
(1938-1943); theory of the illumination and the polarization of the
sunlit sky (1943-1950); theory of the illumination and the polarization
of the sunlit sky (1943-1950); the equilibrium and the stability of
ellipsoidal figures of equilibrium, partly in collaboration with Norman
R. Lebovitz (1961-1968); the general theory of relativity and
relativistic astrophysics (1962-1971); and the mathematical theory of
black holes (1974- 1983).
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was awarded (jointly with the nuclear
astrophysicist W.A. Fowler) the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983. He died
on August 21, 1995.